Friday 26 August 2022

Bridge 27

It's a typical Coventry Canal Bridge, looking very pleasant and idyllic in the evening light.

We'd been moored up for a day about 150 yards the far side of the bridge. I'd been wanting to paint under the left-hand bedroom window frame. The towpath being on that side made this an ideal spot to take the window out and get on with this job that is about 6 years overdue.

The problem was how the painting (numerous coats, a day between each) and its requirement for a left-side towpath would fit with other demands for travelling, such as the need to fill the water tank – knowing what we do about the availability of water on the next stretch of our journey. We decided that, before moving on, we should reverse back through the bridge and fill the tank at Springwood Haven Marina (in the right in the picture). No time like the present, especially as the wind was more gentle than was promised for the following morning.

Now narrowboats are not made for going backwards – they need a certain amount of cajoling. But I have to say that Erin Mae and I get on pretty well with this manoeuvre when necessary. I brought her back round the bend, avoiding the other moored boats, and lined up everything to come through the bridge hole.

Ah, the perils of reversing under a bridge! That's where all the rubbish tends to accumulate, and a reversing propellor just sucks it up. Suddenly there were horrendous noises, and the exhaust started to belch black smoke under the strain. I put the gear into neutral, experimented with what control I still had, and managed to moor up on the marina wharf. No one was around – it was about 7 p.m.

Ever since our first trip through Manchester I've become accustomed to clearing the prop of collected rubbish, so I lifted one of the boards at the stern to access the weed hatch.

It's straightforward – you release the restraining bar, lift off the lid, and prepare yourself mentally for whatever your fingers will encounter as you reach down into the murky depths towards the propellor. I've done it many times.

But this time the lid wouldn't budge. I pushed and pulled, hammered and banged – all to no avail. I think that Rose Narrowboats, doing an excellent engine service last year, had replaced the seal, and it was firmly stuck. In the end we tied up for the night and set the alarm to get us up before the marina staff arrived in the morning.

Springwood Haven people are some of the most helpful you could encounter. I explained our predicament and, much sooner than expected, George came down to see what he could do. He's more beefy than I, but not even he could get the lid off without some serious help from a cold chisel, a screwdriver (ouch!) and a club hammer. Then, at last, I could untangle the offending mixture of bungee, fishing line, weeds, plastic bags and unmentionables. 

Note to self: when reversing under a bridge, line it up and then go into neutral while actually traversing it.

Tuesday 7 June 2022

Hinckley museum

When we were up the Ashby Canal last year, we caught the bus into Hinckley town centre to see the museum.

Unfortunately, I hadn't read the website properly – we'd gone on a day when it wasn't open. So this time we double-checked and, last Saturday, finally got inside. Downstairs there are a couple of rooms celebrating Hinckley's past as a centre of the hosiery industry. Socks, stockings, etc – hose. One room was set up with a big knitting loom as it would have been for the cottage industry. Another had examples of the machines they later invented to automate the processes. 

Hard enough to see how they worked, and staggering to think that, in past centuries, they had conceived how to perform the complex mechanical processes to knit the yarn, and then designed and constructed all the parts for the machines, without CAD software to help.

Upstairs, the old timbers of this 17th century building are splendid, and the exhibits cover some of the social history of the area, especially the local tradition of "Non-conformism".

All in all, well worth a visit if you're cruising that way. But check the website for opening days!

Monday 6 June 2022

Cross pylons

What do you do when two marching lines of pylons cross each other?

You design a small one, and drop one set of cables underneath the other.

In fact, although it doesn't show properly here, there is a small pylon each side of the taller one, with a set of cables going to each, to create a diamond shape around the tall one. I imagine that's to balance out the sideways tension caused by the diversion.

Friday 3 June 2022

Hinckley Jubilee

What with the shallowness of the canals and stopping to fill Erin Mae's water tank, it took us a good long time to get to Hinckley yesterday, but we made it. We got the bus into town in the afternoon, and found our way to Hollycroft Park for a "Proms in the Park" event. The queue stretching down to the gate 45 minutes before they opened it illustrates something of the support there was.

An estimated 2000 people were there – families, picnics, free eco-friendly flags in abundance.

Music was provided by Leicester's Bardi Wind Orchestra. It was an excellent programme of light classics, orchestrated Beatles & Abba, some vocal classics, Vera Lynn and some last night of the proms standards, accompanied by much flag waving and the slightly self-mocking jingoism that characterises that occasion. No pictures of the orchestra, I'm afraid. The ones I took are appalling!

No evening buses on this bank holiday, but we managed to get a taxi back to the canal for not too many pennies. All in all, it was a very enjoyable way to celebrate the Jubilee. Whatever you think about monarchy as an institution, she is one remarkable lady. And my mum approved of her!

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Nuneaton's Nº 10

The Local Authority bus pass for (cough, cough) citizens of suitably advanced seniority is a wondrous thing. Needing to replenish the cupboards with various items, I was able to catch the Nº 10 from within 50 yards of Bridge 21 on the Coventry Canal, and have it deposit me outside the door of an Aldi on the fringes of town, without having to expend the savings from using this particular emporium before I even got there. I thought it should be commemorated with a photo.

Its journey is not through exactly the most exciting parts of Nuneaton, but what struck me was a certain sense of community among the passengers.

One or two would greet each other from time to time, or go and sit with someone they knew. Not a lot, but enough to notice.

Back at Bridge 21, from the map I couldn't see anything more inviting than our current mooring opposite Tomkinson Road Rec, so we've stayed put. Nuneaton visitor moorings look as though they sit right under a railway track and a main road. So we've continued with our custom of short journeys. Tomorrow, however, may well be different. We've noticed that Hinckley has a "Proms in the Park" event as part of the Jubilee celebrations, and we'll probably try to get there.

Which will, of course, entail the use of our bus passes again to get up into the centre of the town from where the canal passes on its outskirts.

I wonder whether Continuous Cruisers (of suitable eminence) are able to get a bus pass, or will no Local Authority take responsibility for such extraordinary people?

Tuesday 31 May 2022

Pitter patter

On Saturday we pitter-pattered back to the head of the Atherstone flight from whence it is a straightforward walk down to the town's Aldi. Since I always buy more than intended, I was glad of the Ikea wheelie shopping basket / trolley for the slight hill back to Erin Mae. I laughed at my best beloved when she bought it, but I haven't laughed since! We winded and went back to our marina, ready for the party.

It turned out not to be for the jubilee, but a big-0 birthday celebration for Kat, the manager, who is a big hit with the marina's clients. Everybody took their own food and we had a good natter with people we hadn't met before. Sunday we joined our church on-line (shades of Covid lockdown!), and in the afternoon did a good clean of Erin Mae's roof – with particular attention to what the pigeons had blessed us with from the tree overhead on Thursday night. So Monday we were ready to move by gentle stages, dodging the showers, and stopped again in what's becoming a favourite spot just short of Springwood Haven. We were having a nice cuppa on the towpath when NB 10,000 Reasons came by, with our BCF friends Andy & Sue Smith who'd been helping Paul, another BCF-er, up the Atherstone flight. They were followed by Chris Buck on NB Kairos, so we all had a jolly chat on the towpath for a while, until they pushed on to Nuneaton for the night.

Looking at the weather forecast, I wasn't sure about moving today at all. But the conversation with Andy and Chris had suggested that Springwood Haven's price for blacking Erin Mae's hull is not actually exorbitant but pretty normal, and they are, after all, very nice people! I knew they had just a couple of slots left in the Autumn, and decided to bite the bullet. So we headed on down, called in, and made the arrangements with Liz.

In view of the weather website, we pulled in for the night pretty soon after, and it wasn't long before the familiar pitter-patter started on the canopy. Then sunshine. Then pitter patter. Then sunshine. Then the most almighty rainstorm, lashing down. Then thunder. Overall, I was glad we hadn't been beguiled by the very pleasant, occasional sunny spells into going any further.

Try again tomorrow.

Friday 27 May 2022

A Plan comes together!

7.30 alarm saw us up and about, and at Springwood Haven Marina about the time they opened. We found ourselves talking with Liz, who was definitely surprised at what her colleague had said to us yesterday about ringing early to see whether they could do anything about our watery woes. But she seemed to appreciate the fact that I knew I was a jolly nuisance, especially this being hire-boat-turnaround day. And since I'd arrived first thing, rather than ringing… (that was the cunning plan!). Well, she was really helpful and rang through to get someone over from the workshop. Rob duly arrived and came down to see what was what. 

He sorted it out in no time, screwing the T-junction in as far as it would go, and constructing a pipe arrangement to fit the new position.

Thanks, Rob. Great job! No more leaks! And therefore an Honourable Mention on the blog! 

We decided to turn around and head back to our new marina as they're having a party tomorrow evening and we thought it would be good to show our faces. Not sure whether it will be a Jubilee celebration. So we winded at Springwood Haven's entrance, and have tied up where we were last night, but pointing the other way.

In the foreground is where the cows come down to cool their feet and have a drink, under the controlling eye of their matriarch. And in the distance you may just be able to see the reason for our excellent mobile broadband reception, standing on the brow of the hill.

Think we'll stay the night in this sunny spot. 7.30 a.m. was a long time ago.

Thursday 26 May 2022

Service resumed – almost

We made the journey up to Mancetter yesterday, with a little niggle niggling away in the back of my mind as we negotiated the M42 at narrowboat speeds. After draining Erin Mae's water systems last October I'd replaced the junction unit that screws into the top of the calorifier (hot water tank).

The pipe going off to the left is an emergency outlet should excess pressure occur. The one going straight ahead takes hot water to wherever it's needed throughout the boat. But I had a problem. Screwing the junction down tight, took it almost an extra quarter turn from what is shown in this picture, and the emergency pipe would not move across that far. I'd cleaned the thread of old sealant tape, and thought this was probably the reason. I assumed that, come the re-commissioning of the system, I'd be able to wrap enough PTFE tape around the thread to get it to tighten in the right position. But would I?

I waited until today to see what would happen. I found my niggling niggle had been justified. Even with copious quantities of PTFE tape, the junction was leaking. If I screw it down tighter, the emergency outlet pipe won't reach.

I rang a nearby marina (Springwood Haven) that has a good engineering department, but their mechanics were all tied up today and tomorrow is turn-around day for their hire fleet. They said I could try ringing at 9 a.m. on Friday to see whether anything might be possible. I rang RiverCanalRescue, but my policy only covers propulsion breakdowns.

In the end we decided to cruise down to Springwood Haven and turn up first thing. Who knows, they might take pity on a couple of needy souls, with a job that, for them, should be relatively straightforward.

So here we are tonight, with the unsuspecting marina just a couple of hundred yards further on. Not quite the first couple of days we were hoping for. Wonder what the morning will bring!